The Explore and Discover staff is made up of caring and knowledgeable teaching professionals, each with an educational background in early childhood education and hands-on teaching experience. E & D provides teachers with exciting professional-development opportunities each year with the goal of maintaining program excellence. Staff turnover is low and allows children to develop consistent and strong relationships with their caregivers.
The bonds between young children and their caregivers take years to develop and should be nurtured and valued. E&D’s staff maintain these relationships, moving with children in their caregiving groups when the children are ready to change classrooms. We refer to this system as “Continuity of Care”. Staying with groups of children also enhances the relationships formed between caregivers and parents.
Our staff consists of an program director, assistant director, five full time primary caregivers, and one full time support teacher. All of our staff members are qualified early childhood teachers with years of experience and education in the profession.
Emily (Emmy) Lichtenstein | Executive Director
With Explore & Discover since September 2014
I am currently the Executive Director at Explore and Discover and have been since 2016. Before taking over as director here, I was the assistant director/ lead teacher of a caregiving group from 2014 to 2016. I love being the director of this community and plan to continue to help E and D grow to its full potential.
It took me a few years to decide what I truly wanted to do, but after getting a job in childcare back in 2005, I quickly realized that I wanted to work with young children. I then enrolled in school to earn my Associates of Arts in Early Childhood Education. After completing my AA, I knew I wanted to be a Director/ Administrator and had dreams to have a center of my own. After getting my AA degree, I wanted to learn more from and administrative perspective and continued to further my education, in Human Development and Family Studies. During my time in school, I was a nanny for six years for three great children that were 3 months, 3 years, and 4 years old. Now, six years later they are still a huge part of my life. At times it seems surreal that I have spent over a decade teaching students, but I am more than ecstatic to have found my true calling in life. Being a Director working with children, parents, teachers, and contributing to my community are true passions of mine that will continue to grow each day. Being able to be a part of the early childhood field and seeing children grow and develop is priceless.
Emily (Em) Milbauer | Assistant Director
With Explore & Discover since October 2015
My professional journey has been a bit of a long and winding road. I have a bachelor’s in elementary education and student taught 5th graders. After college I pursued an au pair job that ended up falling through late in the summer, leaving me without a job as the school year started. I began working for a before/after school program and then became a nanny before falling into childcare. I started out with school age children, running the summer program and before/after school. While the school age children were at school, I helped out in the preschool room and this began my love of early childhood. I snatched up the preschool teacher position when it became available and haven’t wanted to return to older children since.
I moved to Colorado from Illinois in 2013. After some time teaching a pre-K class in a typical childcare center, I decided I wanted to find a job in a Reggio inspired school and found Explore & Discover. I started out here as a temporary support teacher hired to cover someone’s maternity leave and am still here years later, now the assistant director! I never thought I would want to step out of the classroom but the combination of having my own child at home and finding a passion for mentoring other teachers has made this the perfect fit for me at this time.
When I’m not working you can find me creating! I do so many arts and crafts and even work at an art studio on the weekends. I don’t know how to not be busy and am always taking some sort of a class to further my education, working on projects at home with my husband and daughter, or reading through my never-ending to-be-read pile.
I have been working with children since 1995, which started as an after school job with school agers. Since then I have taken many courses and ECE classes to further my education and have worked with children of all ages. I have enjoyed working at E&D because of the relationships built with the children and their families due to the co-op and continuity of care we provide. Being part of the community is very special to me. I am also a mother of a beautiful daughter that has also made special relationships with the community over the years between helping when needed and even doing some babysitting during her free time. Together we love to travel and have spa days. Self care is important and I try to show her that when I can.
Rhianna Hanson | Teacher
With Explore & Discover since May 2017
I am a Colorado native and have always loved children. I was the child that always brought my baby doll everywhere. I am an avid reader and enjoy listening to music and watching movies. I have earned three certificates and my AA Degree from Red Rocks Community College. I plan on continuing my education in the future but presently I am excited to focus on my work with children. I look forward to watching children grow, learn, and become their own little people with their own personalities.
I’m Colorado native, although I have lived in Missouri, Washington, New York, and Illinois as well. I started working with kids at 21-years-old with the Boulder Valley School before-and-after-school program, which led to child care work (which led to me meeting Emmy!). In addition to childcare I have a background in Theatre (BA from UNC), Film (our own goofy stuff), and I have a culinary certificate from Escoffier School of Culinary Arts
Marisol Meza | Teacher
With Explore & Discover since June 2018
I’m 25 years old, born and raised in Denver Colorado. I always wanted to be a high school art teacher but life happened and I ended up going to Aveda Institute to become an Esthetician. After graduating, I realized my main passion was working with children. I started off working with Colorado Sub Agency, that lead me to Explore and Discover.
Becca Birkeland | Teacher
With Explore & Discover since December 2020
Greetings! I’m Becca, a Minnesota native, and I am honored to be part of the E&D family. I have always wanted to be a teacher in some capacity- I learned this through babysitting and teaching swimming lessons. In 2017, I worked at a private Reggio Emilia preschool for the first time, and all of my ideas about teaching and children’s role in education were suddenly justified and valued. I appreciate that the Reggio Emilia philosophy sees children as strong and capable, and encourages teachers to pursue children’s curiosities. I earned my Master’s degree in 2018 in Education and Human Development and have proudly been adventuring and learning alongside our youngest citizens since then. Besides children, a few of my favorite things are iced coffee, sparkles, sunshine and comedy.
Rosalee Kern | Teacher
With Explore & Discover since July 2019
I am married to my high school sweetheart and we live in Englewood with our four dogs. I have been a teacher since 2011 and I can’t imagine doing anything else! I love working with Infants and Toddlers in particular; watching them discover their world and achieve their milestones is the most amazing thing. I feel so blessed to get to be a part of that.
When I am not loving on babies I am usually out and about with friends, dancing like a fool to good music, or elbow deep in an art project. Art has taught me that the process is always more important (and more fun) than the result. I try to spread that passion for exploration to my students.
Miranda Christine Salazar | Teacher
With Explore & Discover since 2021
My name is Miranda Salazar and I am 21 years old. I am a Colorado Native, raised right here in Thornton, Colorado. I adore animals of any variety whether they be soft, furry, rough or scaly. I am also a huge art enthusiast and I express myself using a wide array of different mediums, which include but are not limited to charcoal, pencil, oil pastel, spray paint and scrapbooking. I am both honored and humbled to be welcome into the E+D family and community.
From the time I was a little girl, I was constantly jumping from interest in one job field to another, as such I was sure I’d end up being a rock star, a comedian, a pastry chef, a veterinarian and even a mortician! Not much changed until my senior year of high school when I was given the opportunity to take an Early Childhood Education class and do some practicum hours within the childcare center. I ended up catching the eye of a preschool teacher who appreciated how I was able to diffuse an argument between two young girls. I was fortunate enough to later become employed at the same center. From then on, I knew that I had quite a soft spot for little ones. After finishing high school, I ended up taking a break from childcare for a year or so in order to take a few college courses before fully committing and jumping back into the field.
It was during the course of my second childcare job that I realized that my true passion for early childhood education was directly tied to the care and supervision of infants. There is something truly beautiful and authentic about the way infants look at the world with fresh, new, unbiased eyes that makes my heart smile. It was thanks tot his realization and the incredible opportunity to work at E+D that I have made the decision to continue my higher education journey at Red Rocks Community college. I plan to obtain my AA Degree in Early Childhood Education and it is my hope that once my Associates degree is completed that I can transfer to the University of Colorado Denver in order to earn my Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education with a minor in Ethnic Studies.